Before You Sleep: Three Horrors by Adam L.G. Nevill
A trilogy of horror stories from the award-winning writer’s first collection of short stories - Some Will Not Sleep - and an introduction to the nightmarish visions and ghastly spectres that have been disturbing the sleep of readers for years.
I picked this up during a recent mass-download of free Kindle books. I’m not sure what possessed me, as it would be appropriate to say I’m scared of my own shadow. My partner works away, and I’m alone in the house a lot, screaming at ‘figures’ which are usually just clothes piled on a chair, or ‘spooky noises’ which are usually just neighbours moving around upstairs. What I’m trying to say is, Before You Sleep did not help with my nocturnal fright. In fact, forget nocturnal, I could barely read this during the day, not even in public.
Each of the stories had vague and unsettling conclusions, where the reader is unable to quite understand what happened. This felt frustrating to begin with, but on reflection it was a masterstroke of Nevill’s, adding feelings of displacement and confusion.
Of the three, the first story, Where Angels Come In, was the most fear-inducing for me. With a true gothic feel, Nevill gives us an abandoned house on a hill with macabre stories attached to it. The fun truly began when two schoolboys decided to break in for a laugh. Laugh, I did not. Without giving too much away, Nevill’s skill here is the tension-building, the descriptions of setting and the otherworldly beings belonging to the house. His knack of describing these things and, most horrifyingly, the way they moved, had me reading in a corner to avoid anything coming up behind me. Utterly nightmarish.
Story two, Ancestors, featured two factors which are on my list of horror kryptonite – a spooky ghost child, and toys which come to life. When Nevill described the sound of these toys click-clacking across a wooden floor in the middle of the night, all of my body parts melted down into pulp. Despite my complete terror, this was one I was desperate to find out more about – a definite contender for a longer exploration.
Finally, Flossie leads us to wonder whether a house, with everything the walls have seen and absorbed, can become a being of its own. I don’t want to give too much away on this one, as the premise hit me out of nowhere. Absolutely not a standard ghost story, and all the more grotesque for that reason. My house is a converted home for guide dogs, so I’m very concerned about what’s going to happen to me.
For a freebie, this was excellent. Although I was at my wits end, reading in corners with all the lights on, I was engaged, intrigued, and compelled to finish the stories. To my delight (for now), I discovered Nevill has another collection, Before You Wake, which is also available for free at the moment. I plan to delve into that once I’ve steeled myself again.